Faith and Thoughts from Psalm 62

I love this Psalm. I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. Psalm 62:1 NLT I am learning to wait quietly with Him. I’ve chosen to slow down my devotional time with Him, and it has brought a fresh peace and blessing to my spirit. Psalm 62:1-2 in The Passion Translation says: I stand silently to listen for the one I love, waiting as long as it takes for the Lord to rescue me. For God alone has become my Savior. He alone is my safe place. In our busy, scary world where is your safe place? Can I remind you today that we have one? We have a safe place we can escape to.

David wrote this psalm while he was in trouble. As we read on, we see he is very clear that he is being hunted by his enemies. What did he do? He encouraged himself in the Lord. Do you feel oppressed, depressed and discouraged today? Go to the Lord. As Louie Giglio has said, learn to linger longer in His presence. Let the Lord begin to speak to you of His help and hope. The Passion Translation goes on in verse 2: His wrap-around presence always protects me. For he is my champion defender; there’s no risk of failure with God. So why would I let worry paralyze me, even when troubles multiply around me? My question to you and to me, “why would I let worry paralyze me into inaction and fear?” We don’t have to. As we wait quietly for His assurance, He comes with hope and grace.

Verse 5-8, in the NLT says Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress, where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. Oh my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. I encourage you today to trust in Him. Take the time to pour out your heart to him, not just carry the worry and anxiety around with you. Write it down if you need to. When we take the time to really pray and unload our cares to Him, we find they are easier to carry. Cast them upon Him. He for He cares. Do not let the enemy lie to you and tell you it won’t make a difference. Release your faith and try it.

It worked for King David, and it will work for you. The New King James translation says it this way: Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8. It’s all inclusive. No one is left out, including you. He hears you. He sees you. He longs to be that refuge for you. Ask Him to teach you how to find refuge in Him. He longs to show you. He is available right now to be your shelter in the time of any storm. Go to Him.

Father, I thank You that You are always listening to us. You are our safe place. Teach us to run to You sooner, rather than later. To linger longer with You so we can regain strength, hope and discover Your ways through any wilderness we may be facing. We choose to trust You today, knowing we are secure in Your Presence. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and “Feelings”

Our weather has been pretty cold and miserable here. Sunday morning I woke up, all snuggled warm in my bed, thinking I don’t really “feel” like going to church this morning. I am not serving anywhere. My friend, who I pick up most Sunday’s didn’t want to leave her house because of snow. I was listening to the service from Living Word Fellowship, in Voluntown, Ct. Their different elders were discussing the mindset of the privilege of coming/belonging to a church versus feeling like it is a duty. It was so encouraging, but I almost missed the point by focusing on my “feelings”!

I admit, my feelings almost won. But I encouraged myself in the Lord, made it to pre-service prayer, and was so grateful that I went. In God’s providence, I connected with a new lady who is now a part of our Life Group. As I reflected on this moment, I wondered, how often do our “feelings” direct our path, rather than the Lord.

Feelings are fleeting. They come and go. They focus us on ourselves, and can make us so very short-sighted. Our culture has become a “what about me?” culture. As I pondered staying in bed and watching our church service online, it definitely was about me. If we are to become the salt and light God desires us to be, we must learn to submit our feelings to Him and His ways. I’m sure Paul didn’t “feel” like enduring the beatings, shipwrecks and imprisonments he writes about in 2 Corinthians 11:26, but he learned to endure them like a good soldier, and we still benefit from his writings.

If we are to become the influencers God desires us to be, we must learn self-control. Self-control is the ability to stop yourself from doing what you feel like doing, but it isn’t in your or others’ best interest. Self-control is actually growing up. Toddlers react to the feelings immediately, as adults, we should be able to control those feelings. We mustn’t act like little children, but we must mature in our thoughts and actions. In Matthew 5, we find Jesus teaching about anger, adultery and divorce. The beginning of each of these actions started with a feeling which triggered an emotion which resulted in an action. I wonder how many divisions, divorces, and destructive actions begin with feelings. Because feelings are not always based on fact, how much pain could or would be avoided if a person took the time to examine their feelings.

Feelings are God given. God has them, but He uses them correctly. We must learn to submit them to the Lord, and use them correctly as well. He wants to teach us how. The ESV versions of Proverbs 16:32 states: Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Maybe anger isn’t your struggle when dealing with feelings, but learning to rule your spirit when dealing with any feelings is important. Comparing the works of the flesh found in Galatians 5: 19-21 sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these to the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5: 22-23, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, feelings are involved in both. When reading the works of the flesh list, I found it so destructive and something I, personally, do not want to encourage in my life.

Satan is looking for any foothold he can take in our lives. He isn’t above using our feelings for his purposes. Philippians 2:3-8 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests, but each of you to the interests of others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used by his own advatange; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant. Dear friends, let us keep our feelings in their rightful place. Acknowledge them, examine their source, but do not let them rule your life. Your feelings, if allowed to run things, will lead you to a self-centered and eventually selfish life. Your flesh may be happy, but your spirit will suffer.

Father, help us in this area. We need to understand how to balance our feelings and your ways. I thank you for pouring out grace to us as we explore this area. Teach us that Your ways are the best ways, even if we do not “feel” like it. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Reflection

Only take care

2021 is ending. How are you going to remember it? It really is up to each of us on how we will reflect on this year. What experience, circumstance, or event pops to mind when you think about 2021? My first thought is loss. Two of my special friends passed this year because of Covid. I still feel their loss in my life. But as I reflect on their significance to me, I can only say thank you, Lord. I will choose to pass their impact of generosity, curiosity and love for Jesus on to others. I choose to continue to pray for their families, as a gift back to them. But, I have also gained new friends this year. People who are like a fresh gift, that I keep opening; discovering who our God has made them to be.

As I reflect on 2021, I see the blessing of surrender and saying yes to God’s assignments. This weekly blog has yielded encouraging comments each week. Sitting alone in my home, seeking to write words of encouragement and value to others, is difficult. Can you reflect on areas of obedience that have yielded good fruit in your life this past year?

Psalm 77:11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord, yes, I will remember your wonders of old. What has He done for you, in you and through you this year? If you struggle to remember, maybe it’s time to keep a journal! Write those God stories, not only for you but also for your family and friends. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. If we can’t remember them, then we lose out some encouragement!

I admit sometimes; I am afraid to take the time to reflect. To look deeply at myself and where I actually am as a daughter, mom, grandmother and as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Because I try to do it naked—without His grace and the understanding of HIs love. I see my short-comings and begin to doubt His calling and purpose in my life. I see my failures and it turns into depression and discouragement. No wonder I run away from it. However, when done in, and with, His love, it leads to life lessons and adjustments. Yes, reflection often leads to repentance. But repentance is not a bad thing. Humility places us in the place where we must admit we need Him, and that is always a good thing. We can’t do it without His perspective. How about you? Do you have the courage to consider where you are now, and where you want to be this time next year?

This year seemed to speed by. I had goals to accomplish, and some of them, by God’s grace, I could complete. Others are going to be rolled over into 2022. We experienced so many answers to prayer this year. Our God was faithful to His promises in so many ways. Healings, financial victories, growth in relationships with my grandchildren. I learned to lean into Him and on Him in new ways.

Reflecting on leading our Life Group Ladies brings many smiles and a sense of satisfaction. Not because of my part, but because of Him and His faithfulness. Hearing their God stories and watching us grow together as a community was such a blessing. Once again, reflection is a good thing. I expect even more good things will happen in 2022, as we build on His Word and His ways even more. Learning to cry together, as well as celebrate, is good.

Saying yes to helping my daughter home-school her children was a win. Teaching astronomy has opened my eyes once again to the amazing universe and its Creator. However, even more importantly, I have spent hours with three of my grandchildren because of this class, loving and getting to know them. Adding health class did the same for two others, but also reminded me of the sobering issues our culture faces.

Christmas day, my son-in-law Andrew Phillips,prayed, “Father, I ask that you give us sticky hands this year. Hands that will hold on to Your promises.” I love that prayer. In the natural, I hate sticky things, but I want those sticky hands. We need them when the enemy would taunt and torment us for believing for the impossible. We need the promises of God to get us through.

Balance is important. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. Psalm 143:5 But we also find Paul instructing us in Philippians 3:13-14 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on one thing. Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. We take time to remember and reflect, but we also must forget the past and look toward the future. There are things to accomplish for His kingdom, assignments of obedience to fulfill and value to add to those that cross our paths. Let us press on, dear friends. Let us press on.

Father, I thank you for the things accomplished in 2021. I thank you that you have unknown plans for 2022, that you want to reveal. Thank you, that as we press forward we can trust You. You have good things, we know, in store for us. Let us build on the things You taught us in 2021. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Intentional Celebrations

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

The other day I was driving with my grandchildren, and we were chatting about Christmas and what they like about it. They were discussing how they not only enjoy the blessing of receiving gifts, but they also really enjoy giving gifts. This touched my heart, but then one of them mentioned they like the anticipation of Christmas, but then the aftermath leaves them feeling down and empty. She mentioned it was going to be an entire year before Christmas came again, her favorite holiday. Putting the decorations away made her sad. Her thoughts resonated with mine as well. When I am alone in my home, looking at the remnants of the happy time we had together and dismantling the decorations, I often get sad. I just want more time together, but that isn’t realistic. Looking back, I realize this perspective can either motivate me to enjoy the time together, let that sadness steal the joy of the present. It is important to celebrate intentionally Jesus’ birth and our family and friends. I don’t mean to add any stress to an already stressful time, but to encourage us to release our faith, that God desires to use this time of celebration for His good.

Our present is always fleeting. As I’ve grown older, I recognize how quickly babies turn into toddlers, toddlers into pre-schoolers, etc. My oldest grandson is in college now. The time just flew by. So, my friends, please take the time to enjoy this present season. This past year, I have lost many friends. There are empty places at my friend’s table this year. I know they would say: love your family a little longer, don’t worry about the small stuff, say the words you need to say. Clear the air if possible of any struggles and choose to enjoy those you care about.

Be patient with yourself as well. None of our lives is a Hallmark movie set, nor scripted to have a happy ending. LIfe often is difficult, but that is when intentional celebration can be even more meaningful. Accept that fact (no perfection) and enjoy what you do have. God is with you, just as He was with Mary and Joseph. Look for opportunities to encourage those around you. Before our family opens presents, we give each other “word gifts”. It is a precious time to share words of genuine encouragement.

Holidays can be brutal emotionally for those who feel alone, or are in fact separated by miles or circumstances from family. I encourage you to reach out to others. The temptation for self-pity to come knocking at your door is strong. Fight it, my friends. Look at what you do have, rather than what you don’t. Reach out. Be pro active in your celebration of Jesus’ birth. Help someone else. Take time to write down the things you for which you are grateful. It is ok to be sad, but don’t dive deep into the quicksand of self pity. Often (from experience) you can’t recover as soon as you think.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain the heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 This includes times of celebration. Let’s make them count, but not in a stressful way. Release your faith that as you bring God into the mix, it will be good. The first Christmas without my husband, Darryl, I faced a quandary. What to do with his Christmas stocking. We ended up letting everyone who wanted to write a note about him, and putting in the stocking. These are precious memories, I still read. Make memories! Take pictures to preserve them. It’s important.

Father, I ask that you help us learn to celebrate Your birth with joy, with peace, and with less stress. I ask that You comfort all those who are missing someone this year. Help us to redeem that time with our loved ones. Lead us to encouraging conversations and fill our homes with Your grace, mercy and patience. Thank you for showing up in special ways for the lonely. Help us help them as we can. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Lessons from Mary and Joseph

Do you ever wonder? Wonder what it would be like to be Mary? A young woman who had contracted to be married to a good man, Joseph. Things were going as planned until they weren’t. The angel Gabriel interrupted Mary’s life one day. Reading through Luke 1, we find this amazing, but familiar story. God sent Gabriel sent to a specific place, Nazareth. To a specific person, Mary; to give a specific message: You will conceive and bear a son, a son who will be called the Son of the Most High.

This specific message to this specific young woman changed not only her life but also Joseph’s, of course and then the worlds. I wonder about the conversation Mary must have had with both her parents and, of course, Joseph. She had to tell them of this visitation. These were real people, with real emotions. We know Joseph had a bit of a struggle with the news, because he contemplated breaking the marriage agreement. Once again, God sent an angel, this time in a dream, to assure him that what Mary had said was genuine. As I read their story and put myself in their place, I am amazed at the faith and grace God gave them to walk their calling out. It was unique to them, as is our calling unique to us. No matter our calling, we have to walk it out with faith.

They still had to do some difficult things. Now the government interrupted their lives. During those days, the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, ordered that the first census be taken throughout his empire. (Quirinius was the governor of Syria at that time.) Everyone had to travel to his or her hometown to complete the mandatory census. So Joseph and his fiance, Mary, left Nazareth, a village in Galilee, and journeyed to their hometown in Judea, to the village of Bethlehem, King David’s ancient home. They were required to register there, since they were both direct descendants of David. Mary was pregnant and nearly ready to give birth. Luke 2:1-5 TPT I did some research, and it was about a ninety-mile trip. Many think it must have taken them about five days to make the journey. Not comfortable at nine months pregnant. No one knew their significant story at this point. They were just two travelers obeying the law of the land. No special recognition or special amenities given.

Taking time to think through the reality of their story helps me understand that just because you have a specific call on your life, it doesn’t mean that it will be easy. In fact, thinking about the different “stand outs” in scripture, like Esther, Nehemiah or the prophets, they all had it rough. They persevered. They simply accepted the difficulties as part of their purpose. I am trying to do the same with my life. Maturity means we accept the hard things without murmuring and complaining. Maturity means we keep going when we want to quit. Maturity means we count the purpose more important than the cost. In the letter to the church of Philadelphia, John writes: Because you have kept my command to persevere, I will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.Revelation 3:10. I am not sure what all this scripture refers to–but I hear God’s heart in wanting us to stay the course, no matter what. My friends, no matter what you are facing, you can do it. Do not let your flesh or Satan tell you it would be better to quit. Please keep going. If you need prayer, ask for it. If you need help, get it. But please do not draw back from following Him. There is a blessing coming. The fellowship of the suffering with Him, is always worth it. Do not wonder if it would be easier to step away from your calling, it won’t be. Because who else has the words of eternal life?

Let us take hope and heart from dear Mary and Joseph. They fulfilled their calling and purpose. Maybe you don’t feel you are as important as them. That your calling is small and insignificant. I would ask you to think through those thoughts. You are telling the King of Kings, the Lord and Maker of the Universe, that He made a mistake. Release your faith, my friends. Look up! It is always worth the cost of serving Him. He finished His call and purpose for us, we can do the same.

Father, I thank you for your grace to persevere. We know life has rough times, but you are always with us during them. You will show us a way through the wilderness. We have the promise of your Light that will light our path. I ask you strengthen my friends this day. Encourage those that are weary and tired, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Faith and The “Real” Jesus

and from Jesus Christ, the faithful and trustworthy Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth Revelation 1:5

During this Christmas season, the focus, rightly so, is on the amazing story of all the aspects of His birth. Reading about Mary’s encounter with the angel, Joseph’s dilemma, and their trip to Bethlehem is always encouraging and insightful. But, fortunately for our sakes, Jesus grew up. And He fulfilled His God-given plan, mission, and purpose. It is wonderful, but sobering, to ponder the move from the stable to the cross.

But take the time to focus your thoughts on who He is now. Read Revelation 1:5: and from Jesus Christ, the faithful and trustworthy Witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (Amplified Version). As I read this verse, I realized how I needed to really remember that not only is He faithful and trustworthy, but the ruler of the kings of the earth. John goes on to write: Now to the one who constantly loves us and has loosed us from our sins by His own blood, and to the one who has appointed us as a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father, to whom be glory and dominion throughout the eternity of eternities! Amen! Revelation 1:6 TPT

He not only is our constant Savior, but He is giving us a job to do right now. Jesus is not only our friend and our Savior, but He is also our boss, teaching us how to do our priestly duty of helping others com. Does that change your perspective on serving Him? It should!

Revelation 2:13 describes our Savior: I saw someone like the son of man, wearing a full length robe with a golden sash over his chest,. His head and his hair were white like wool–white as glistening snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire! His feet were gleaming like bright metal, as though they were glowing in a fire, and his voice was like the roar of many rushing waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth was a sharp double-edged sword. And His face was shining like the brightness of the blinding sun! This is our real Jesus! This powerful, mighty ruling one. It is a privilege and an honor to bow at His feet. To submit in obedience to His power and authority with humility. Even though I have the privilege of walking with Him as my friend, I need to put all arrogance and entitlement aside continually. He is not only is Lord, but He is THE Lord. John says, When I saw him, I fell down at his feet as good as dead, but He laid his right hand on me and I heard his reassuring voice saying: Don’t yield to fear, I am the beginning and the End, the Living One! I was dead, but now look I am alive forever and ever. And I hold the keys that unlock death and the unseen world. Revelation 2:17-18 TPT I believe when we truly understand the majesty and awesomeness of our Savior, knowing He is on our side fear will lose its grip on us. No matter how dark things become, we have the Light of the World on our side. Enjoy the stable and the story of His beginning on earth, but understand this is the real Jesus who will complete His story as well as ours.

Father, I ask that you open our eyes to understand who you really are. When we are tempted to give you more of an enhanced human version of ourselves, remind us of who you really are. Keep us in our place. It is a wonderful, loving place as your servant, where we can partner with you for Your Kingdom’s sake. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Dwelling

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty, I will say to the Lord, “my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells. The word dwell jumped out at me today. Many translations substitute the word “live” for dwell in this verse, but I think “dwell” conveys a sense of permanency and intention. You and I have a choice of where we choose to “dwell” and what we choose to “dwell on”.

We all have a place to dwell. The question is, do I choose to dwell in the shelter of the Most High or in some other random place? Do I spend more time thinking about (dwelling on) my problems and trying to figure out solutions than I do praying about them? Do I focus on my own inadequacies more than God’s strengths?

This past week, my daughter experienced vertigo. It is a very unpleasant condition that for her case involves nausea, dizziness and a sense the world is spinning, fatigue and ringing in her ears. The doctor said she has a piece of sand in the hairs of her ear canal, and when it vibrates, it sends mixed messages to her brain. So, in my concern for her, I have to ask myself, am I dwelling in the peace of God, knowing God is moving on her behalf, or am I busy worrying? Dwelling on the problems and concerns for her family, this has added.

When we choose to dwell under the shelter of the Most High, we can run to Him. I would ask you to ponder…how big is God’s shelter to you in actuality? Is it a tiny thrown together leaky shack? Or is it, in your thoughts, a safe, secure refuge? It makes a difference. The amplified version of Psalm 91:1 says He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty, [whose power no enemy can withstand]. Are you believing it today? For those thoughts that are causing you to dwell outside of God’s thoughts? Are you dwelling on fear? Anxiety? Anger? Unforgiveness? We don’t have to live there. We can come under His shelter. In His shelter there is peace and care. There is power and might. There is hope and trust. In His shelter, we are protected.

Here is Psalm 91 in the Passion Translation. Read it in the first person. (When I abide…and I am hidden) You will be blessed!

When you abide under the shadow of Shaddai,
    you are hidden in the strength of God Most High.
He’s the hope that holds me and the stronghold to shelter me,
    the only God for me, and my great confidence.
He will rescue you from every hidden trap of the enemy,
    and he will protect you from false accusation
    and any deadly curse.
His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you.
    You can run under his covering of majesty and hide.
    His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm.
You will never worry about an attack of demonic forces at night
    nor have to fear a spirit of darkness coming against you.
Don’t fear a thing!
    Whether by night or by day, demonic danger will not trouble you,
    nor will the powers of evil be launched against you.
Even in a time of disaster, with thousands and thousands being killed,
    you will remain unscathed and unharmed.
You will be a spectator as the wicked perish in judgment,
    for they will be paid back for what they have done!
9–10 When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High,
    our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm.
    How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us?
11 God sends angels with special orders to protect you wherever you go,
    defending you from all harm.
12 If you walk into a trap, they’ll be there for you
    and keep you from stumbling.
13 You’ll even walk unharmed among the fiercest powers of darkness,
    trampling every one of them beneath your feet!
14 For here is what the Lord has spoken to me:
    “Because you loved me, delighted in me, and have been loyal to my name,
    I will greatly protect you.
15 I will answer your cry for help every time you pray,
    and you will feel my presence
    in your time of trouble.
    I will deliver you and bring you honor.
16 I will satisfy you with a full life and with all that I do for you.
    For you will enjoy the fullness of my salvation!”

Father, help us truly dwell in your Presence and in Your refuge. We will choose to dwell on you and your ways,not our own fears, In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Ezekiel

On July31 of my thirtieth year, while I was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River, in Babylon, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. Ezekiel 1:1

I’ve been reading through the book of Ezekiel. It is quite a book filled with unique visions, harsh judgments and unusual acts the Lord asked Ezekiel to perform. I will freely admit this is not a book I look forward to reading every year, but it is one that is good for me. Ezekiel was a trained priest and his name means “God Strengthens”, I assume he really needed that reminder as he followed the Lord! I am sending you to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me. Ezekiel 2:3

I can’t help but admire him for his faithfulness to the Lord during such difficult times. He prophesied to the remnant of Judah exiled in Babylon, while in Babylon himself. He endured the consequences of the sins of the Israelites, even though we see him as a righteous man.These were troublesome times, brought on by the immorality of the people. He laid on his left side for 390 days, and his right side for 40 days tied up with ropes so he couldn’t turn. He shaved his head and beard and then weighed and measured it and then scattered, chopped and burned it. The Lord told him his wife was going to die, and she did-but he was forbidden to mourn her passing. None of these were simple things to do, yet we see Ezekiel obeying them all.

One effect of reading this book is being reminded of how wicked and sinful the culture had become. Idolatry had replaced true worship. God’s protection was lifted from them and the Lord used Ezekiel to make it very clear he was going to use the Babylonians to punish His people. It is hard to read. Then he said to me, ‘the sins of the people of Israel and Judah are very, very great. The entire land is full of murder; the city filled with injustice. They are saying, “The Lord doesn’t see it! The Lord has abandoned the land!” So I will not spare them or have any pity on them. I will fully repay them for all they have done.” Ezekiel 9:9-11.

Of course, I can’t help but reflect on our own country and the sin that fills our own land. It is sobering to read and know the same things are happening today, here. We see judgments pronounced on Tyre, Edom, and Egypt and know our country could just as well be added. I can’t help but wonder if we are under some of those same judgements. I found myself crying out to the Lord to be merciful to us.

Having read this book before, I know hope is coming. God’s love and faithfulness and commitment to His people is revealed. Judgment is real, the consequences of sin is real, but so is God’s promise of change and restoration. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 16:25-27,

This good news is for us as well! No matter how hard my heart may seem at times, I just have to call out to Him and ask for a tender, responsive one. Wonder of wonders, we have the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit working with in each believer. He is always working to keep us soft and tender, even when the ways of the world would cause us to harden them. Chapter 37 brings us to the valley of dry bones, and God’s great question to Ezekiel. “Can these dry bones live?” Ezekiel’s response: “You alone know the answer to that”. And then we find God telling Ezekiel to prophesy to these bones, and they lived. I look at the areas in my life and wonder “can these dry bones live”? Can our country experience revival? I ask, why not? I choose to trust God’s love, mercy and wise judgement. My responsibility is to walk in His ways, pray and intercede for our nation and its leaders. Ezekiel’s calling was hard, and so may ours be, but it is doable as we rely on Him.

Father,I thank you for your sobering words found in the book of Ezekiel. I thank you for a man who served you well. Help us do the same. We may not understand everything about what he wrote, but we can understand the need to walk uprightly with our God. We understand we need to speak the words He gives to us, and to obey. Father, help us keep a soft heart toward you and your ways, no matter what. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Faith and Pleasing God

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

This past Sunday, Pastor Michael Hurley was teaching about the importance of gratitude and thankfulness. As he moved through his notes, he came to a place where he had written “grow”, but when he shared them, he said “grow up”. We all laughed as he explained the addition, but also understood that he was so right. As I pondered these thoughts, I realized that maturing into our relationship with the Lord (a fancier way of saying “grow up”) moves us from pleasing ourselves to consciously choosing ways to please the Lord.

To please someone means you cause them to feel happy and satisfied. It means you walk in awareness of their cares, concerns and pleasures. Young children learn what is pleasing to their parents, but then their own self concerns become more important, and they choose what pleases them. Hopefully, as they grow, they let go of the “me first” and “what about me?” stages. This doesn’t come naturally to most children. We have to teach them. Even as adults, we often need reminders it is not all about us. To truly please the Lord, it must come from our heart, not just our actions. That often takes a process.

There are many scriptures urging us to live and walk, pleasing to Him. Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. I Thessalonians 4:1 So it is with us, we need to set ourselves to be learners. For some, the thought of pleasing God is amazing, because in their own family, they felt they could ever please their parents. But it is not so with our God. He can be pleased! Look at Enoch. (Hebrews 11:5-6).

Learning to please the Lord means we put His wants first. What does He like? What makes Him smile? We don’t have to guess, because it is clearly spelled out in Scripture. For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Romans 14:17-19. We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. Romans 15:1. So one way we can please the Lord is to build up our brothers and sisters. Encouraging others always makes our Lord smile. Promoting harmony in the Kingdom of God also makes Him smile. As a parent, when our children get along always makes us smile, too!

Galatians 6:8..but those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Setting ourselves to please the Lord is not just for His sake, but also for ours. We all will be blessed with His blessings if we choose to please Him. Choosing to put off the ways of the flesh and living in such a way that pleases the Holy Spirit makes Him happy.

We know that when we walk in faith; we please the Lord. Read through Hebrews 11, also known as the Heroes of the Faith chapter. It contains so many wonderful men and women who walked before us, trusting God no matter what the outcome. I think when we seek to walk in faith no matter if we are walking through dark places, hard storms or simple obedience, He is pleased. When we walk in faith, we are saying to Him, I trust You. I believe You, even when I can’t see the way, I know You know the way. It brings Him joy.

The writer of Hebrews writes a prayer for all of us in Hebrews 13: 20-21. Now may the God of peace–who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood–may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. Not only does He tell us what will please Him, but He promises to help us do it through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Setting your heart every day to please the Lord is the best way to live.We may mess up, of course. But His grace is always with us. His grace and mercy will carry us through our learning times.

Father, what a privilege it is to know that we can bring pleasure to You!. It is a humbling thought that we can bring happiness to the Creator of the Universe. I ask You to continue helping us do those things that please You. Forgive us when we get too self-centered. Help us grow up in Your ways, In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Faith and Drifting

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1

As I was reading this scripture the other day, the word drift caught my eye. Obviously, the writer of Hebrews was issuing a warning here. If I am honest, some warnings I tend to gloss over. I may not pay as much attention to them, especially when I was younger. I am sure it was pride plus not trusting that the person giving the warning knows what they are talking about. No one knows who wrote the book of Hebrews, but as we read through it, he seems to be a wise man, both experienced in the Hebrew law and he understands people. As I have grown older and experienced more of life, I realize those warnings apply to me as they do anyone else.

Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in the final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. Hebrews 1:1-2. So what is the author’s warning to us? That we should not forget those things we have heard and received about our Lord. We must remember that He is everything that was written in chapter 1. He is the heir of all things. He made the world. He cleansed our sins. He sat down at the right hand of the Father in the place of honor. He holds all things by the word of His power. These are the type of things we are not to forget. We cannot let the ways of the world and our own soul allow us to drift away from the reality of who our Lord really is. When this happens, the reality that He really is Lord fades, and then we start to drift into our own ways. A drifting boat has two options. Crashing on shore—or start the engine and control the direction.

Living as long as I have, I have seen the shipwreck of those who have lost their first love. It starts slowly. Missing a service or two, then other things begin to fill up their Sundays. They would love to speak of the things of God and His Word, then those things were not as important to focus on because their Bible sat unopened on their shelf. Worldly culture replaced godly culture. Instead of praising the Lord, swearing moved in. I’ve seen marriages lost because people drifted a part. Relationships with children became boring routines. No warmth, caring or engagement—just drifting a part. When engines of our life become disengaged no matter the area, drifting happens—and the eventual shipwreck takes place.

There are so many warnings in the Bible about people falling away, and usually that falling away begins with just drifting away. Brothers and sisters, please do not let it be you. Please choose to heed God’s Word. Anchor yourself in its truths. Establish your relationship with Him. Persevere when times get tough. Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

The good news is the Holy Spirit is always working to draw us to Him. But, as a dear mentor always said “He is a gentleman. He will not push His way in.” These are serious days, and we need to understand that. Choices we make affect us. But also the choices we do not make can affect us even more. Those are the ones that happen because we are drifting and usually lead to regret. Let’s engage our engines, be productive citizens of heaven and earth and avoid shipwreck!

Father, I ask you to show us where we maybe drifting in our relationship with you, our spouse, our children or others. I thank you for stirring us up today to engage our engines and keep us from drifting. Let us be the examples to encourage others to keep on going. You are so worth it. In Jesus’ Name, amen.